Demographic change | Over 15,000 Turkmen civilians forced to be displaced from seven villages in Homs countryside
Since the outset of the Syrian Revolution, residents of predominantly-Turkmen villages in the northern countryside of Homs, as well as all constituents of Syrian society, have called for freedom, justice and equality, trying every possible peaceful way to reach their goals. However, their peaceful protests were met by extreme violence and oppression by security services of the tyrannical regime.
After peaceful protests had been turned into military actions, many Turkmen civilians joined anti-regime military formations, expressing their rejection of marginalisation they had been subjected to before the Syrian Revolution, as they had been blamed for crimes committed decades ago, which they had nothing to do with.
Today, several villages which had been inhabited by Turkmen-Syrian civilians in the northern countryside of Homs hosts nothing but abandoned and destroyed houses, while streets are empty almost completely. These villages’ inhabitants had been forced to displace to north Syria region, fleeing killing and arbitrary arrests by regime forces which determined to take revenge for their support to the uprising which was launched in early 2011.
The following seven villages: Burj Qa’i, Al-Sam’alil, Kaisayn, Tasnin Al-Ghajar, Gharnatah, Qeniyyat Al-Asi and Karda Al-Dasiniyah, which had inhabited by 15,000 people, were the most prominent predominantly-Turkmen enclaves in the north-western countryside of Homs. Nearly 90% of the indigenous inhabitants of those villages were forced to displace to different areas in north Syria region and Turkey, after regime forces had captured the entire province of Homs in the centre of Syria in mid 2018 under a Russian-sponsored agreement with opposition factions.
Reliable sources have informed SOHR that the number of Turkmen people in those villages had ranged from 14,500 to 18,000. All those villages are located near Al-Hawla area in the north-western countryside of Homs and surrounded by several villages, mostly inhabited by people of the Alawite community, who backed the Syrian regime and formed popular committees “Shabiha.”
According to the sources, nearly 90% of the indigenous inhabitants of those villages chose to be evacuated, in “green buses,” over staying in their areas and struggling with the oppression by the regime’s security services. Meanwhile, Al-Assad’s regime unlawfully resettled people of the Alawite community in the houses of the displaced Turkmen.
A few Turkmen families attempted to stay in their homes, but they endured oppression by the families of regime soldiers and affiliated militiamen who had been brought to these villages, after the evacuation of most of the indigenous inhabitants. Accordingly, those few families have never dared to oppose or complain against these sectarian practices.
Turkmen population in north-west Homs countryside
Al-Ghajar village “Gharnata” was one of the most major predominantly-Turkmen enclave in northern Homs, where it had hosted 6,500 people, according to SOHR statistics, while the village of Karda Al-Dasiniyah, which is located nearly 20 kilometres to the north-west of Homs city, came in the second place with a population of nearly 5,000 people. After that come the villages of Kaisayn and Tasnin, as each village was inhabited by nearly 2,700 people. At the end of the list come the villages of Al-Sawda and Snaysel, which overlook Homs-Masyaf highway, with a population of 1,500 people in each village. These villages’ inhabitants were displaced to villages in the northern countryside of Homs, fleeing massacres similar to those which had been committed by members of the National Defence Forces in Al-Mahnaya, Tanoula and Raf’een villages which have backed the Syrian regime since 2013.
Eyewitnesses tell off atrocities committed in predominantly-Turkmen villages
Speaking to SOHR, a displaced man known by his initials as H. K. who is from Snaysel village and now living in Turkey, said “all inhabitants of the villages of Snaysel and Kherbet Al-Sawda were displaced from their homes, after the massacre which had been committed by regime forces in the villages in May 2013, in which 16 people, including women and children, were executed by firing squad. The families of members of the Lebanese Hezbollah took over the displaced people’s properties, where Hezbollah has stationed in the rocket battalion adjacent Kherbat Al-Sawda village since early 2018.”
Another man known as A. D. from Gharnata village has confirmed that the inhabitants of the village have been clinging to stay in their properties and did not left the village, where they struck reconciliation deals with the Al-Assad’s regime. The man says, “the location of Gharnata village contributed to keeping its inhabitants away of atrocities by the regime’s Shabiha who are from relatively far villages. There are tens of families from other predominantly-Turkmen villages located in Al-Hawla plain have moved to my village. Now, Gharnata village is the only village hosting Turkmen families in the northern countryside of Homs.”
It is worth noting that tens of families of regime soldiers and Shabiha (regime loyalists who abuse power and conduct illegal actions for the benefit of the regime) have been resettled in the villages which had inhabited by Turkmen civilians in the area of Al-Hawla plain. As a part of the ongoing demographic change, other families of regime soldiers and loyalists from the villages of Al-Qabw, Ba’rin, Al-Ouj, and Mariameen have been resettled in the villages of Kaisayn, Tasnin, Karda Al-Dasiniyah and Qeniyyat Al-Asi. Meanwhile, the new comers are working on changing all features related to the culture of the Turkmen who lived in these villages for decades.
A man known by his initials as A. A. from a village, mostly inhabited by Alawite community told SOHR that a minority of the Turkmen attacked residents in neighbouring villages and incited sectarian strife, as well as forcing the Christian residents in Um Sharshouh village and Alawite residents in Kaisayn village to displace.
It is worth noting that the political and military forces of the Syrian Turkmen managed to form the Syrian-Turkmen Council and the Syrian-Turkmen Democratic Movement in late March 2013, before they announced their official representative in the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the Syrian National Coalition, so that they can ensure the fulfilling of the Turkmen’s demands to enjoy decent standards of living in Syrian in the future.